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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

12 - The Weight of the Shadow of the Past

from Part II - Land Forces


This chapter explores the organizational culture of Iraq’s army between its founding in 1921 and its collapse by the time of the American invasion in 2003. During this eighty-two-year history, the organizational culture of the Iraqi Army moved from the face of a foreign occupation in the 1920s, to a political tool of internal social and political coercion, to “probably the most potent military ever wielded by an Arab government.” However, by the time American troops pulled down the statue of Saddam in Baghdad’s Firdos Square, the army’s organizational culture was but a faint echo of not only its Iran-Iraq War pinnacle but also its historic norm. Saddam’s role was the critical factor in this change. Saddam needed professional military officers competent in developing and employing a large modern armed force, but he preferred the counsel of “violent and ignorant personalities.” Saddam could never reconcile the fundamental difference between what he called tribal and civilized (or state) warfare and the professional elements of the Iraqi armed forces could not survive in his shadow.